Another fireside chat with Harper
In what is now a longstanding weekly tradition, Stephen Harper came to the back of the plane (aka The Reporter Section) on Saturday on the way home to Ottawa from New Brunswick.
And another brief informal chat ensued as Week Four of the campaign wound down. (Sunday is an off day for him).
The pretext was to say farewell to those reporters moving on to other planes next week but, of course, the conversation moved quickly to a range of matters.
Such as (surprise!) the campaign.
When asked what he'd be doing Oct. 14 Harper paused, then offered: "I'll be commenting on the election."
To which someone noted "Hey, what about a life in punditry once you're done at this" - which brought an answer not unexpected by those who've followed him closely: "Nope. Once I'm done, I'm done," he said.
Interpretation: You'll not see much of Stephen Harper once he's finished as PM.
And no, he added (again), he won't much miss pesky reporters questioning him all the time either.
What about the debates?
Still, that day's not here yet so there was plenty to yack about. And it was Harper himself who raised the matter of this past week's leaders debates.
He said he liked the roundtable format, despite it being effectively four against one on both nights.
Asked if he'd prefer a series of one-on-ones, he said "maybe." And that, in fact, they'd thought about that but all things considered it would likely be logistically unworkable.
CBC Radio's Susan Lunn then asked the one question anyone who watched the debates must have wondered: With all her broad gesturing during both encounters, did Harper think Elizabeth May was actually going to physically strike him?
He paused again, then said, "Well, no."
In truth, he said, they seemed much closer on TV than they really were.
How's he feeling?
Harper was then asked how he was feeling and whether after four long weeks of campaigning he was flat out whacked. (Safe to presume the reporters all are).
"Not at all," he said, volunteering that, like his previous two campaigns, there've been only two nights he hasn't had good sleeps … those being the nights after each debate.
He said he's typically fairly wound up after those things and so, as in previous campaigns, he was up all night after them last week, both Wednesday and Thursday.
Which begs the question: What was he doing at 3 a.m. Friday?
The answer: Watching a replay of the debate of course — Biden vs Palin.
(And no, he didn't comment on that one any further, despite a chorus of Who'd-you-think-won questions from nosy journos).
He did remind people that sleep is very important to him and that one of the key lessons he's learned over time at this game is to pace himself.
He recalled the 1980 Trudeau-Clark contest, saying that while Joe Clark was going gangbusters that year, eventual winner Pierre Trudeau stuck strictly to conducting a single news event per day. Hare, meet tortoise.
"Very instructive," noted Harper, from both a personal pacing perspective — and for campaign messaging efficacy.
(Note to students: Indeed, that's exactly how Harper's executed this campaign).
The long haul
And speaking of campaigns, he said as far as he's concerned they effectively begin six months before the writs are dropped and for him this one is no exception. It's a strategic long haul.
That said, there's still a week left before the vote. So it was back to the front of the plane for now.
Except for one other thing...
He asked which reporters would be along for the ride next week, right through to the 14th?
Regular readers will know Harper already has pity for your agent, being the only reporter who's covering the Prime Minister each day of his 2008 adventure.
"Paul," he said, "I still feel sorry for you, having to listen to me every single day."
"I know your speech so well," came the response, "How about on the second last day, I'll do it for you, off by heart."
"I'll hold you to that," he said. "But only if then I get to ask you questions afterward."
— Paul Hunter
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